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Here at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf we understand the “Bürgeruniversität” (Citizens’ University) as a dialogue-oriented, transparent research and educational facility that actively fosters exchange between science and society, and values this exchange as fruitful for both sides. The intention is to utilise the idea of the Citizens’ University to hone the profile of HHU. Alongside the primary and original objectives of conducting excellent research and providing outstanding teaching, it is an offering to HHU members and affiliates as well as to citizens in the region. In individual cases, measures resulting from this strategy will also influence and improve the performance dimensions of research and teaching (e.g. citizen science or service learning).

The term “Bürgeruniversität” goes back to the idea of the responsible “citizen” and the educational concept of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment pursued the aim of advancing society through rationality, education, progress and emancipation; it stressed the personal responsibility and sovereignty of each and every citizen. These values are taking on renewed relevance in the face of the new challenges of dealing with the flood of information in an increasingly digitised knowledge society, the current debate around “fake news” and “alternative facts” as well as the anti-democratic developments in Europe.

Against this background, HHU sees itself as having a duty to act as a place of dialogue in which citizens and researchers can critically reflect on current social developments and consider different viewpoints. In addition, it endeavours to help its students become independent, cosmopolitan citizens who are advocates for freedom, democracy and peace.

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